Heitkamp urges U.S. trade representative to stand up for N. Dakota farmers, ranchers
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Heidi Heitkamp urged newly-confirmed U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) Robert Lighthizer to defend North Dakota agricultural priorities as the administration renegotiates the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Heitkamp also pressed Lighthizer to use NAFTA renegotiations to address concerns that North Dakota producers have about Canadian grain standards, Mexican sugar dumping, and country of origin labeling for meat.
Starting with her one-on-one meeting with Lighthizer in February, Heitkamp has tirelessly reinforced to Lighthizer—and to other administration officials—that trade agreements should level the playing field for farmers, ranchers, and workers, while also holding other countries accountable when they cheat on trade deals.
“As this administration tries to renegotiate NAFTA, I won’t let anyone forget that North Dakota farmers and ranchers rely on exports to Canada and Mexico to make a living,” said Heitkamp. “This is an issue I pressed USTR Lighthizer on during our one-on-one meeting earlier this year. Any renegotiation of NAFTA must be reasonable and guarantee our producers can still export their top-notch products, which is vital in today’s challenging price environment. Efforts at renegotiation should also address Canadian grain standards, Mexican sugar dumping, and country of origin labeling for meat—and I’m reminding Lighthizer how important all those priorities are for North Dakotans.”
Heitkamp has long worked to expand and protect market access for North Dakota farmers and ranchers. North Dakota is the ninth largest agriculture exporting state in the country, with $4.1 billion in commodities exported each year—and Canada and Mexico are the state’s two biggest markets foreign markets. Click here to read the letter Heitkamp sent Lighthizer outlining North Dakota priorities in NAFTA renegotiations.
Last year, Heitkamp called on the former U.S. Trade Representative to protect North Dakota grain growers from unfair treatment after a report she requested showed that Canada segregates North Dakota grain and offers unfair prices to U.S. producers at Canadian elevators. Heitkamp called on Lighthizer to resolve the issue.
Heitkamp also pushed Lighthizer to work with the Agriculture and Commerce departments to take on Mexico for illegally dumping subsidized sugar into the U.S., harming North Dakota sugar growers. Since 2015, when the U.S. found that Mexican dumping and subsidies were hurting American sugar producers, the U.S. has been working to find a solution that defends the domestic sugar industry and the jobs it creates in the Red River Valley.
In addition, Heitkamp urged Lighthizer to find a solution for country of origin labeling for meat so American families can know where the food they put on the table comes from. Particularly after recent scandals related to spoiled and contaminated Brazilian beef—which led Heitkamp to call for a pause in Brazilian beef imports—Heitkamp remains committed to giving North Dakota families the information they deserve about the origins of their meat.
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